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Natural Disaster Research Project

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Natural Disaster Research Project


The first signs of Hurricane Irene were being tracked nearly seven days before it made landfall August 27 west of Cape Lookout, North Carolina (Hurricane 13). It began in the Caribbean as a tropical wave. After circulation was detected the National Hurricane Center issued public advisories on August 20, 2011 (Hurricane 14). The storm moved through the Caribbean and Bahamas and headed to the east coast of the United States. By the time Irene had subsided, the death toll in the United States had reached a total of forty four individuals from various east coast states (Hurricane 6). Even though by the time Irene reached the eastern seaboard it had decreased to a Category 1 hurricane, damages ranging from crop damages to flooding were incurred and estimated at $2.6 million, and eight million people were left without power (Barron 2). Irene was the first hurricane to hit New York City since 1903 and caused unprecedented actions such as the closing of New York's mass transit system, postponing Major League baseball games and Broadway plays (Barron 3).


The effects of Irene have been far reaching. A state of emergency was declared in thirteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico by President Obama (Armstrong, 1). Emotional as well as economic stresses were produced by a variety of disastrous

circumstances resulting from the damaging storm. 5.12 million people were left without power and evacuation orders were issued up the east coast with 370,000 being in the state of New York alone (Bloomberg 1)( NY Times 2). This not only included private residences, but hospitals and nursing homes as well. Death, destruction and displacement left millions in distress over their future well-being. Unfavorable economic effects were also abundant. For example, North Carolina's $750 million-a-year tobacco crop, and fourth largest in U.S. cotton crop suffered millions of dollars of damage (Bloomberg 1). The coast's lucrative vacation industry was negatively impacted as vacationers cancelled trips or rerouted plans to other destinations (Moore 2). Transportation was also hit hard by Irene in various places. Roads and bridges were washed away, Amtrak services were cancelled, airports were closed and mass transit systems were shut down (Moore 2). All in all life was upended by those both directly and indirectly impacted by this storm.


While a significant hurricane like Irene directly impacts thousands of people, there are many others that experience collateral damage as well. For instance, when multiple transportation sources are disrupted, thousands are stranded or at a minimum delayed in reaching destinations in a timely manner. The economy as a whole feels the effects of damages related to natural disasters. Prices for goods and services are affected by crop damages and loss or delays in production. Both state and federal government resources are stretched in order to help those in need. Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) has been called upon numerous times this year due to floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. in multiple states. When FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund is between $800 million and $1 billion, the agency shifts their focus to those with immediate need rather than rebuilding (Salter 1). On May 22, 2011 a devastating tornado cut a wide path through Joplin, Missouri, however, when Hurricane Irene struck the east coast the federal government froze aid to Joplin and redirected it to the hurricane victims (Salter 2). Some positive consequences do come out of these situations, however. There is also economic stimulation due to rebuilding efforts that creates the need for new jobs. Although the emotional toll is great on those involved, often it unites people to work towards the common goal of putting their lives and communities back together again. All things seem to repair and rebuild over time.


FEMA is a support agency called upon by state governors requesting aid from the federal government. FEMA's public assistance program is a coordinated effort between federal and state governments and those affected by natural disaster. FEMA works in an oversight capacity to assist with project development and review. They also help determine the amount of funding disaster relief projects should receive and to educate those needing assistance about program procedures (Roles 1). If FEMA functions in this capacity, it appears to be an essential source



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